He sat alone at the booth, just walked right in and sat down. There was a sign to wait for seating, but the hostess was absent anyway. Not that it mattered, the restaurant was empty at this time of day, well after lunch but still hours before dinner service. Jasmine stared down the aisle at his booth. The walnut paneling and the hardwood floors combined with the low lighting and dark vinyl booths created a mysterious atmosphere.
At least that was what the owner said. Jasmine thought that the owner liked the colors best because they hid the dirt and age. The restaurant was a family owned business that had been the center of town 25 years ago. For Jasmine it was her first job opportunity, but the rest of the town had moved on with new strip malls, and national franchises. They still had there regulars. Some people couldn't change or wouldn't. After 25 years Jasmine was just about too. But He was still here.
She remembered him as one of her first customers. If not the first. Beige pants and a dark dress shirt, casually unbuttoned at the top. Trim figure with long dark brown hair that he kept in a pony tail. On some men that hair would have been feminine, but he had a strong jaw that was perpetually shadowed with dark whiskers.
Every day he sat alone at the same booth from 3:00 to 3:45. For the last 25 years. And every day he ordered the same thing. An ice tea, a rueben sandwich and a piece of cheese cake. No strawberries. He always paid in cash. About 15 years ago they had tried out a new chef and he changed the reuben for about a week. Then suddenly the chef was gone. No notice. The reuben changed back.
Jasmine walked up to his booth. She was a lot less spry these days. She remembered the bounce in her step at 16. She wasn't sure if she would bother to ask him his order. Sometimes she didn't. In the last 25 years he hadn't changed at all.
No wrinkles. No receding hairline. Every hair was in place, teeth blistering white, and skin smooth and taut. He could have passed for 22.
Subconsciously she always tried to hold her breath just a little when she was around him to try to look slimmer. Today was no exception, but there was something different today. She handed him a menu and when he made a token glance across the laminated paper she felt like something broke through.
All this time she had never talked to him. Never said a word. It was like an itch just below the surface of her skin that she couldn't scratch. An itch that day after day, year after year kept getting worse. Who was he? An angel? No, a vampire.
"Sit down," he said, quietly, and she compulsively obeyed. That was when she realized that she had spoken out loud.
"You can talk, if you like," he said, "I shouldn't be surprised that after all these years you would have something to say, but I am." The words were like the lifting of a geas. She would have let out an explosive breath if she hadn't been holding her stomach in.
"Who are you?" Jasmine asked, she was really talkative as a waitress, but she was having difficulty finding her mental footing.
"I could give you a name," he said, "but it wouldn't have any meaning to you. You could call me Bob or Don or Jim. You understand all these names and for you I could even choose one, but it wouldn't be right would it?" He was looking right at her, maybe through her, almost like she stared at her dog. It was not demeaning, in fact she enjoyed his attention.
"But you are a person? You are here," she said more definitely, "I am not just talking to myself. And you are here every day and you order the same thing and you never ever change."
"You think of me as a person, because that is how you think," he said, "When you see a flower, you say that is a 'rose'. That is one way to think, and I can think that way with you and we can talk. But that is not the only way to think."
"Then tell me how you think." She wanted to be exasperated. But looking into his grey eyes the emotion seemed to drain away from her.
He smiled slightly before he replied and she even better. "You would not understand the words, but does it matter. You are happy here."
"No I'm not," she said, "Every day I come in to work and it seems more and more like the town is dying. I see new businesses but no people. The malls are crowded but my family is gone."
"No family," he said. It was a simple statement of fact.
She flinched. "I always wanted children, but somehow it never happened. It didn't happen for me or my sister. I remember my parents had a big family. There were family reunions and birthdays. Somehow its all gone."
He nodded. "Your community is gone. We thought this might happen."
"There are others like you?" She asked surprised.
"Many others. You could say that as you have receded we have emerged."
For a moment she was completely horrified but even that emotion melted away into a need. A need to help him she realized.. He seemed to be sad. Sad for her?
“Can we make things back to the way they were?” she said.
"All things change and grow," he smiled, "Even I do although you can't understand it. Humanity has grown too. Changed into something new. As we have grown there was no need for you."
"What will happen to us?" Jasmine asked.
You will disappear."